African Feminist Forum

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The African Feminist Forum is a biennial conference that brings together African feminist activists to deliberate on issues of key concern to the feminist movement.[1] It was developed out of the growing concern amongst feminists on the continent, that the efforts to advance the rights of women on the continent were under serious threat from a number of sources. It took place for the first time in November 2006 in Accra, Ghana.

Feminists in Kenya[edit]

Wangari Maathai[edit]

Wangari Maathai[edit]

Wangari Muta Maathai
Wangari Maathai.jpg
Wangari Maathai holding a trophy awarded to her by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights
Born Wangari Muta
(1940-04-01)1 April 1940
Ihithe village, Tetu division, Nyeri District, Kenya (then known as Nyeri, Kenya Colony)
Died 25 September 2011(2011-09-25) (aged 71)
Nairobi, Kenya
Ethnicity Kikuyu
Citizenship Kenyan
Education B.Sc: biology
M.Sc: biological sciences
Ph.D: veterinary anatomy
Alma mater Mount St. Scholastica College
University of Pittsburgh
University College of Nairobi
Occupation Environmentalist, political activist, writer
Known for Green Belt Movement
Religion Roman Catholic[2]
Awards Nobel Peace Prize
recorded July 2007

Kenya is one of the most compelling African Countries in terms of feminism transformation. After gaining independence from Britain in 1963, the fight for women liberation in Kenya was pioneered by various heroic women, including the Nobel Laureate the Late Professor Wangari Maathai, who founded the Green Belt movement in 1977. The movement was a leading voice for environmental conservation (for which Professor Maathai was given the Nobel award) and women’s rights. She encouraged women in rural parts of Kenya and around the world to plant trees. From that simple idea sprouted a powerful movement that challenged what she saw as the incompetent, corrupt and often brutal rule of many male-dominated regimes in post-colonial Africa. Professor Maathai was variously frustrated in her struggles in the Kenya Parliament, but her efforts contributed strongly to found a nationwide outcry for gender equality. Professor Phoebe Asiyo presented the Affirmative Action motion in 1977 but the men dominating parliament voted against it (Adawo et al., 2011).

Quotes by Wangari Maathai

“African women in general need to know that it's ok for them to be the way they are - to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.”

“In Kenya women are the first victims of environmental degradation, because they are the ones who walk for hours looking for water, who fetch firewood, who provide food for their families.”

“It was easy to persecute me without people feeling ashamed. It was easy to vilify me and project me as a woman who was not following the tradition of a 'good African woman' and as a highly educated elitist who was trying to show innocent African women ways of doing things that were not acceptable to African men.”

Martha Karua “Iron Lady”[edit]

Martha Karua was born in the Central Province of Kenya; she is the second born in a family of eight siblings. She studied law at the University of Nairobi from 1977 to 1980. Between 1980 and 1981 she was enrolled at the Kenya School of Law for the statutory post graduate law course that is a prerequisite to admission to the Kenyan roll of advocates and licensing to practice law in Kenya. When she was 24-years-old, Martha was appointed as a Magistrate and served in a number of courts in Kenya. As a Magistrate Martha was renowned for consistently demonstrating keen and just discernment in her cases.

In 2007, the then Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Karua presented a bill on constitution amendment to allow women representation in parliament, proposing 50 women’s seats (nominated) to give the country’s women representation in the parliament. The struggle for women representation and equality continued until the year 2010, when the country promulgated a new constitution (Axtell, 2011). The winning part for the feminist movement was in Article 27, section 8, which states that all state organizations shall not have more than 2 thirds members of one gender. In addition, Article 81 requires that elective bodies show the same representation as Article 27 (Adawo et al., 2011). As a Minister of Justice, Martha was happy with the framework and timeline that was put in place, during her tenure as Minister, to ensure the constitution process was protected from partisan interests so that Kenyans could finally have a new constitution. One of Martha’s proudest moments was watching the crowds cheer because of the new constitution.

Micere Githae Mugo[edit]

“I’m a child of the universe, I have lived in almost all continents.” Micere Githae Mugo was born in Baricho, Kenya. She received her primary and secondary education in Kenya. Mugo became one of the first black students to be allowed to enroll in what had previously been a segregated academy. She later attended Makerere University where she gained her Bachelors of Arts in 1966, then she gained her Masters from the University of New Brunswick in 1973 and finally she gained her PhD from the University of Toronto in 1978. Micere took up a teaching position at the University of Nairobi in 1973 and became a Dean of the Faculty of Arts, making her the first female faculty dean in Kenya. She taught at the University of Nairobi until 1982.


Mugo was a political activist who fought against human rights abuses in Kenya. Her political activism led to her being harassed by the police and arrested. Mugo and her family (including two young daughters) were forced to depart Kenya in 1982 after the attempted coup of the Daniel Arap Moi government after which she became a target of official government harassment. She has worked, written, and taught from abroad since she left Kenya.

Current affairs[edit]

Women in Kenya have more rights now than they did before the new constitution was passed. However, there is still gender discrimination, gender issues and different obstacles that some Kenyan women face such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), poverty, women’s’ right to their opinion and independence from the punitive traditional women’s role as stipulated in most customary settings. The majority of these issues are now already receiving widespread cross-gender support, and the Kenyan feminism effort is really one of the frontline efforts towards gender equality.

Publications by Kenyan Feminists[edit]

Micere Githae Mogo Books

1. African orature and human rights (1991) 2. My mother’s poem and other songs. Songs and Poems (1994) 3. Muthoni wa Kirima, Mau Mau woman field marshal (2004) 4. Writing and Speaking from the Heart of My Mind: Selected Essays and Speeches (2012) 5. Daughter of My People, Sing!

Wangari Maathai Books

1. Unbowed: A Memoir (2006) 2. The Green Belt Movement: sharing the approach and the experience (1985) 3. The Challenge for Africa (2009) 4. The Canopy of Hope: My Life Campaigning for Africa, Women, and the Environment (2002)

The African Feminist Forum Program[edit]

The African Feminist Forum program is organised along clusters which reflect the concerns and priorities of African feminists. Each cluster has two or three Coordinators. The clusters are as follows:

  • Crafting an African Feminist Epistemology
  • Feminist Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive health and rights in Africa
  • African Feminism: political and economic power; resisting fundamentalisms
  • Intersecting-Generations
  • Feminist Creative Expression
  • African Women’s Movements: organizations, structures and capacities
  • Confronting violation in women’s lives
  • Global Feminism and the UN System


  1. ^ Tomupeishe Maphosa (16 April 2013). "African Feminists". Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Wangari Maathai – God is on this Mountain, Philip Carr-Gomm blogsite, 19 October 2011

Adawo, L. et al. (2011). History of Feminism in Kenya. Available at


Axtell, B. (2011). Feminism in Kenya: A New Narrative. Available at

Creager, A., Lunbeck, E., Schiebinger, L. (2001). Feminism in Twentieth-Century

Science, Technology, and Medicine. University of Chicago Press

External links[edit]